Some TV Lawyers Aren't Even Lawyers at All
I was watching television the other night, and as happens quite often, a commercial for a lawyer referral service came on. This particular ad was for an outfit called “1-800-ASK-GARY”, and they are on so often, I'm pretty sure you've seen them too.
This particular spot, though, was a new one I had never seen before. The commercial started out with the words, “REAL PEOPLE, REAL SITUATIONS!” blazing in all caps across my TV screen. That was the part that made me laugh. It may be a little hard to make out on your screen, but this doctor and lawyer referral service is required by The Florida Bar to put disclaimers on their ads that explain that “people depicted are actors”, as well as “dramatization, not an actual event”. So when the ad started out attempting to deceive viewers into believing what was being shown was “real”, I just laughed – out loud.
I mean, seriously. 1-800-ASK-GARY is a hugely successful enterprise, but I have to believe that there are people out there that have absolutely no idea what they actually do. When you've just been in an accident, you may not be thinking clearly. You're agitated, scared and really unsure of what's going to happen next, now that your world is turned completely upside down. If you were seriously hurt in the crash, you're most likely looking for help in getting your life back in order, taking care of your medical expenses, and wondering who will pay for it all. In my opinion, this is the worst possible time to watch TV, because you just may see a misleading ad that plays on your emotions while attempting to deceive you.
1-800-ASK- GARY was founded by a Florida chiropractor. And while their television commercials do point out that they are a “medical and legal referral service”, the practice of showing a horrifically smashed-up car and someone holding their neck is designed to make the consumer think they are lawyers. They are not. Think about it – a smart chiropractor decides that because of the large number of motor vehicle accidents in Florida, he'll start a network of doctor's offices that will agree to pay him to be a part of his service. At that point, he finds out that a lot of the people that call for a doctor's referral have no legal representation, so he decides to add attorneys to his referral service. The attorneys also pay a fee to 1-800-ASK-GARY to be a part of their operation.
I have no issue with the success this outfit has garnered over the years. They spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, on television and radio advertising, and it has paid off handsomely. Just Google “Dr. Gary Kompothecras”, and you can see the lavish and luxurious trappings enjoyed by the founder of the 1-800-ASK-GARY. Of course, you'll also find quite a few articles outlining how The Florida Bar feels about some of the referral service's advertising tricks, and what they're doing about it – you can read more here. It seems I'm not the only one who questions this type of marketing.
What I DO take issue with are the methods used to become so successful. When The Florida Bar, whose job it is to make sure that consumers of legal services are protected from fraud and misrepresentation, decides that operations like 1-800-ASK-GARY need to drastically change their advertising message, then you know there is a problem.
At our law firm, Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone, we help those who have suffered a serious injury, or the family of someone who has tragically lost their life, through the fault of another. We've been doing it for a very long time, with over 80 years combined experience of our attorneys. We don't advertise our law firm on television. Frankly, the bulk of our cases come from personal word-of-mouth – when you've been helping people for such an extended time, they tend to mention our name to their friends and family members who may need our help. We develop relationships with our clients that reach far beyond legal representation – we become trusted friends, with the right help when you need it.
We also don't pay a fee to any television ‘lawyer referral service'. I actually think this form of promotion for attorneys does the consumer a serious disservice, and it makes me angry when I think of people who have been involved in a serious crash and end up calling some outfit like 1-800-ASK-GARY, simply because they've seen so many of their TV ads. I just don't think people actually fully understand what their service does, and how it really works. They wind up being placed into a sort of “Russian roulette” of being referred to a lawyer who is paying to be in their rotation. I don't think that is any way to find an attorney who you are comfortable with, and who can successfully fight for your legal rights.
If you'd like to know more about me and our law firm, just browse around the website. You'll find a lot of bio information on me, my partners and everyone in our firm. We also have a lot of details about our history of success, client testimonials and answers to your questions about what happens if you've been in an accident caused by someone else.
Choosing an attorney you can trust involves a lot more than picking the one with the most prolific number of TV or radio advertisements. I hope you'll do some research, ask your friends and neighbors, and don't become fooled by the abundance of questionable promotional tactics used by referral services.